Eight suggestions for lowering your energy bill in winter

Electric blankets – Electric blankets use very little energy. They are definitely more energy-efficient than the same-weight blanket and a higher room temperature. It’s more economical to heat the individual than the house. If you or family members can’t agree on a room temperature, use an electric blanket to bring the coldest member into the comfort zone.

Water heaters – Heating water typically accounts for about 18 percent of household utility bills. Save $24 to $60 annually by lowering the thermostat of an electric water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, down from the manufacturer’s default setting of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the EPA. Wrapping a water heater with a fiberglass blanket helps retain the heat longer.

Programmable thermostat – This will keep your bill low, and your efficiency high. Program the thermostat instead of setting it manually every time you leave the house or come back home. Manufacturers recommend programming your thermostat to the following temps/times during the week if your house is empty during the day (they also recommend setting the thermostat to 55 degrees when you go on vacation for a few days or more):

  • 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. = 68 degrees
  • 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. = 60 degrees
  • 5:30 to 11 p.m. = 68 degrees
  • 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. = 60 degrees

Research has recently shown that cooler temps — mid-60s vs upper-60s/low-70s — promote better sleep, and may even increase your metabolism.

Let sunlight in during the day – Once the sun is up, capture as much free heat as possible. Even on cold days, the sun is still warm. Open curtains and let the light shine in. If certain parts of the house don’t get sunlight, keep the curtains closed to keep the heat in. And keep curtains closed at night. Once the sun goes down, keep all that heat from leaving through the windows by closing the drapes. At night you can put up temporary curtains (sheets, rugs, blankets etc.) at doors to the outside.

Avoid the “Cupolas effect” – The cupolas used natural ventilation to vent hot air out and create a steady flow of air coming in. This is great in the summer but not in the winter. The rising warm air in a home will pull in cool air from the outside through any gap it can find. This creates negative pressure in lower levels, which will suction air because that warm escaping air needs to be replaced. This pulls cool air in and chills the home. The effect is magnified in homes with two or more stories.

To avoid this, you want to seal those gaps. The most common offenders are doors and windows. To test this out, light a candle and carry it throughout the house, holding it close to doors and windows. When you hold it still and it flickers, you have a possible gap. Hold your hand out to test it and you’ll often feel cold air. It may seem like a small and unimportant leak, but it can definitely make a big difference, especially when they’re multiplied around the house.

For doors, roll a towel and block the air. You can also buy weather-stripping that seals gaps on the bottom, sides and top of the door, as well as around windows.

Keep certain rooms toasty warm by closing doors – If you spend a lot of time in certain rooms, you can close doors and create a little sauna. Leave the door closed at night and let the heat run like normal. The room will be nice and warm in the morning. If you have big, open spaces, you can use room dividers; it may not seem like much, but any blockage that keeps air from escaping less quickly will help keep rooms warmer.

Close doors to rooms that aren’t frequently used in your home — just make sure you also close the vents in those rooms. This will lower the heated square footage, and the warm air will spread quicker and easier through the house.

Add layers to your wood floors – Wood floors without insulation can account for up to 10% of a home’s heat loss. Carpets and rugs were created to keep rooms warmer. Add a rug or roll of carpet to your floor in the winter, and you’ll notice a difference in coziness.

Ultimately, keep the person warm versus the house – It’s more about keeping the person warm versus the entirety of the house. The house doesn’t really care if it’s a little chilly, but you care if you’re cold. So throw on hoodies and sweaters, get a warm robe, sip on hot coffee or tea all day, break out the thick blankets and bed sheets; do whatever you need to do to stay warm and comfortable.

Do you have any tricks for keeping your home warm in the winter?